Guns and Poses Road Tour
L-R Philipe (Belgium), Steve (England), Frank (Papua N. Guinea), Dave (U.S.A.), Dave Unkovich (Australia).
Philippe and Steve have been traveling the world for many consecutive years by motorcycle. Frank has been traveling S.E. Asia on the start of his Round The World in 1,000 Days trip. Dave Unkovich is the "Mad Max" of Asian Motorcycling having been in S.E. Asia more than 20 years. Me, I am a former motorcycle racer (more years ago than I will mention) with only a year in Thailand. (Sept. 2003)
North Thailand is said to have some of the most beautiful roads in the world for motorcycling. David Unkovich is a cartographer and author whose maps and website, www.gt-rider.com, give the best information available for the avid motorcyclist. I met him not too long ago and went on a weekend trip with him and three other world class motorcyclists. We followed a road in Northern Thailand that leads up to the Myanmar border. It has some of the most scenic areas and best motorcycling roads.
Doi Ang Khan
A stop for lunch
I don't understand why the kids aren't afraid
After some roadside caterpillars
The ride is ended with a Traditional Thai Massage in Fang.
On our first trip we were pressed for time. A little over a week later Philippe, who is from Belgium and has traveled the world for many years by motorcycle, and I decided to make a return and do some more exploring.
First we went north returning along part of the previous route and some new areas. By chance one of our friends “discovered” an adjoining route that did not appear on any maps. The following morning we decided to find this road and try it. We were joined by a young guy from Sweden who read of our “adventures” on the website, flew to Bangkok and then Chiang Mai, rented a motorcycle and found us in a small town called Fang where we said we would overnight. That’s determination.
Well we did the route and then decided, “Wouldn’t it be great to combine the two trips one day?”. “We could spend another night on the road, what else have we to do tomorrow?” So off Philippe and I went………..
Philippe and I had a great ride up to Fang by way of Arunothai and Nor Lae. Nor Lae became our favorite village and the steep twisty road down to Fang became our regular route. We visited Nor Lae three times in as many days.
Purely by chance going north from Nor Lae we ran into Steve, who was southbound from Mai Sai, and told of us of a “new” deserted road he discovered coming from Thaton. We all went to Fang that evening and said we would do the road in the AM. Steve later decided to go back home so Philippe and I backtracked the following day.
Off to Fang where we met a young guy named Dan from Sweden who had read our posts and flew from BKK to Chiang Mai, rented a bike and found us at Cheers. He at least gave Philippe a little competition.
The next morning when reaching the turnoff from Fang to Nor Lae we turned right instead of left. We had to drive rather quickly through a checkpoint entering this road, sorry no number, as the guards came out of their huts waving and I don’t think they were saying Hello.
An incredible 60 kilometer drive followed. The road was deserted and washed out in spots where one had to hold his breath and maneuver a 1 meter wide path around the drop-offs. Other sections we passed were partially washed out or cracked and waiting for their day to take the plunge. At what second does this happen? Would it dare happen with a motorcycle on top?
This road followed the border and passed near to Doi Phahompok we believe. The road came out at a checkpoint on the Mai Ai-Thaton loop road #1314, 13 kilometer from Thaton. We cannot find any record of this road.
So now what do we do? We really don't have to return home today. Off to Fang of course. We decided it would make a great trip to connect our “new” route with the Doi Ang Khan route back to Chiang Dao some day. Well, why not tomorrow?
We overnighted in Fang after a massage and another ear trashing night at Cheers. A rather late start and we headed to Thaton and found our road just south of the bridge. The road sign completely blocked by a bush.
When I told the guard at the checkpoint we were going to Nor Lae he said "No,no, cannot" shaking his head. But another one of the guards had seen us come down the day before, I believe, and although his partner did not appear too happy he shook our hands and let us go. We later ran into armed patrols and numerous check points. Only once did two guys jump from the bush and actually aim their rifles at us. After a little chat we received an apology .
We had left Fang about 11:00AM and did not arrive Chiang Mai until almost 8:00PM. I’m sorry we did not keep accurate trip notes as we were just enjoying it too much.
Oh Yeah, the Red Haired Singer. I received a call from Philippe yesterday saying he could not make our appointed dinner & photo/trip review in CMX because HE HAD RETURNED TO FANG. The report on the Red Haired Singer will have to be his.
Nine killed in border drug shootout
Bangkok Post Newspaper, 01 Sept 2003
PM instructs police to use deadly force to eliminate drug caravans
A shootout last week between Wa drug dealers and Thai police on the Thai-Burmese border left nine drug smugglers dead and resulted in half a million methamphetamine pills confiscated.
The event prompted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to call for a step-up in the border drug war. The PM told police that there is no need to arrest drug caravans crossing into Thailand from the Burmese border, and instructed police to shoot to kill instead.
The early morning, bloody gun battle erupted between combined forces of Thai drug suppression / border patrol police and Wa drug traffickers in Chiang Mai’s Mae Ai district on August 20.
Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra reacted with anger over Burma’s apparent lack of action against the cross-border drug flow and said Thailand would suppress Wa drug traffickers itself if Burma did not. The Thai government announced it is determined to wipe out drugs, and that it is frustrated by drug smuggling from Burma.
The Thai government announced a resolve to get rid of ya ba caravans from Burma, and an order came down through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ask the Burmese government to help manage the issue.
According to sources, drug suppression police led by Pol. Lt. Col. Noppadon Nimmanond, in cooperation with the 334th Border Patrol Police Unit based in Mae Ai district, set up a blockade to halt drug smuggling through Thailand from Burma.
The combined Thai forces tried to stop a caravan of drug dealers walking along the Thai-Burmese border ridge at Huai Sala village, Group 15, Tambon Thaton, Mae Ai district, Chiang Mai, after they received a tip-off that there would be a big drug smuggling caravan from the drug factory outside Thailand which would be crossing into Thailand.
The BPP located a caravan of 20 people carrying backpacks, walking through the border ridge, entering the Thai countryside. The combined police forces ordered them to stop, but the caravan refused, ran for cover and opened fire with AK-47 sub-machine guns.
After 30 minutes of fighting, police detonated a planted bomb which they had set as a trap. The explosion caused the surviving members of the caravan to retreat, leaving nine dead comrades behind.
Near the bodies, police found five backpacks, each containing 100,000 ya ba pills, for a total of 500,000 pills. Police also confiscated five AK-47 machine guns, 10 grenades, two M 26 grenades, two walkie-talkie radios, one pistol and one set of binoculars.
Autopsies on the dead bodies were carried out in Mae Ai.
Authorities disclosed that the drug caravan was made up of members of a Red Wa minority group. Eleven of the 20 managed to escape into the jungle. Police surmise that at least some of the survivors were injured, as there was a blood trail through the forest.
Meanwhile, it was reported on the same day that Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra received a report from Pol. Lt. Gen. Preowpan Damapong about the gun battle. The report emphasized that the Red Wa has not stopped producing ya ba pills.
PM Thaksin said that as far as he knows, the Red Wa have a ya ba factory 20 km from the border ridge, and that Thai police have already reported this to the Burmese government, and even provided them with a map indicating the spot where this factory is operating.
Prime Minister Thaksin ordered the Minister of Foreign Affairs to cooperate with the Burmese government to manage the Red Wa case.
E-mail Question from Home;
"Why do so many of your pictures have Army personnel in them?"
The situation here is that there is still many skirmishes that break out around the Burmese (Myranmar) Border with Burmese rebel groups and drug lord armies. The rebels still fight against the Burmese military dictatorship. They sneak across the border into Thailand for refuge but the Thai do not want them and try to chase them back. The war lords fight against each other and it is an almost regular occurrence where the headlines read "Drug Smugglers intercepted crossing border, all killed in gun battle". Usually a pretty one sided battle.
Everywhere along the border vicinity are checkpoints where you are stopped and questioned. This is also commonly done by the police all over Thailand at random traffic checkpoints. No civil rights here.
I have so many soldiers in my photos because we are riding in areas that we probably shouldn't even be in. But that is half the fun. To get on the road in the photo (I will right a story later) we came to a checkpoint with the barricade down but high enough to ride under. I figure they can't really want you stop if it is that high right? And "Sorry, I can't read Thai". We caught them by surprise and guards were in their huts. When they came out waving, we just smile and wave back "Happy to see you too" and go like hell.
At the next one you have to BS that the first one said it was OK. Also I keep my badge in my passport cover. They love it and usually pass it around to show everyone. But it still really gets the adrenaline going when you come around a curve and there is an armed patrol. Usually they are so shocked at seeing westerners and big motorcycles it is quite amicable. But it can get touchy. Yesterday some little shit actually drew down on me with a rifle as we whizzed by. When we tried to make the return trip the next day we were denied access, but with my broken Thai I told him we passed yesterday. His partner came out and wanted to impress us with his only English "Good morning, how are you?", he had seen us come down the mountain the day before, he shook my hand and my riding mates hand, and we quickly smiled and took off. That seemed like permission to me.
The road in the pictures follows the border and is not on any map. As you see it is closed. Also the maps all say "Sensitive Border Area", but hell, I'm a sensitive kind of guy so no problem.
Doi Ang Khan-Fang-Jock Scott Road Trip -
The "true story" leading to this trip (Adult Content).
EARLY in Thailand: http://www.daearly.com
GT-Rider Forum : http://www.gt-rider.com/thailand-motorcycle-forum
Last Updated: 06/17/2009